Israel Fears Landslide Hamas Win in Jerusalem

The top Israeli security and diplomatic brass fear that Hamas will decisively win the PA elections in Jerusalem. Hamas is expected to win all four eligible Jerusalem legislature seats.

Hillel Fendel , | updated: 10:15 AM

The elections for the PA's legislature are scheduled for Jan. 25. Some 1.3 million voters are registered on the official PA Voters' List throughout the Palestinian Authority.

The Israeli Cabinet, headed by Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, approved today a decision to allow voting in Jerusalem post offices - but without the option of voting for Hamas (see below). Nor will Hamas be permitted to electioneer in the capital. Despite this, Hamas is expected to win handily in the capital.

Heading Hamas' Jerusalem list is Muhammad Abu-Ata, who was released from Israeli prison several months ago. Israeli police raided the Hamas office in Jerusalem near Damascus Gate this afternoon, arresting Abu-Ata and three others.

In Jerusalem, only about 40,000 voters are registered on the Voters' List. Though this list determines who can vote in the PA, a PA Elections Committee official informed Arutz-7 today that the PA will be ignoring it in Jerusalem, and will permit any PA resident of Jerusalem over age 18 to vote. The number of eligible Jerusalem voters is thus 123,000. Of these, the Oslo Agreements allow some 5,000 to vote in Jerusalem post offices, and the others are to vote in Jerusalem suburbs.

According to an arrangement with Israel, those who vote in Jerusalem will do so in an absentee ballot-type arrangement. This, in order not to allow the PA to display signs of sovereignty in Israel's capital. In practice, however, election observers will be present in the post offices, and the ballots will be placed in a ballot box, as opposed to a mail box, thus defeating the above-mentioned purpose.

The PA's legislative council (PLC) currently has 88 seats, but will have 132 after the coming election. Sixteen districts - 11 in Judea and Samaria and 5 in Gaza - will send 66 delegates to the PLC, and the other 66 legislators will be elected via the proportional representation system, similar to Israel's party system. A minimum representation has been assured for women, and six seats have been reserved for Christians in four of the 16 districts.

The Jerusalem district is to receive six seats, with two reserved for Christians. Israel assumes that Hamas will win the remaining four.

A main concern of Israel's, and one that is manifest in the Oslo Accords' ban on PA political activity in Jerusalem, is that the PA not indicate any sovereignty over Israel's capital. The coming elections, however, may show that Hamas - which continues to call openly for Israel's destruction - is the leading PA leadership force in Jerusalem. Israel is also concerned that the elections will strengthen Hamas' stature in the PA in general.

Arutz-7's Haggai Huberman, citing Israeli security sources, said that today's Cabinet decision is likely to be void of significance, in that it will be impossible to enforce a ban on voting for Hamas. "The significance of this," Huberman reports, "is that by allowing elections in Jerusalem, the government is deciding to allow Hamas participation in the election."

Huberman says that the military is critical of the fact that the government will not discuss the ramifications of a Hamas victory in Jerusalem, and of Hamas' expected strong showing in the PA election in general. The issue is not on today's Cabinet agenda, even though Hamas is expected to win 30-40% of the PLC seats.